Editor’s Pick
APRIL 14, 2011 10:52PM

How a video game saved me

Rate: 7 Flag

I didn't intend for my first post on OS to be a story about teenage melodrama but hey- you take life as it comes. The year was 2001, and I was a senior in high school.  The previous 3 years had been a little less than ideal. The curses I bore were braces, a terrible haircut, persistent acne, and complete lack of ability in sports. In fact I broke the school record for worst tryout attempt for the golf team at 75 over par, and I didn't get a single hit at baseball tryouts. But worst of all, I had never had a girlfriend, and only kissed a girl playing truth or dare. The weight of my utter lack of manhood was crushing me.

Enter Rachel. She was a year behind me, and a new transfer student. We only had one class together- art. It was perfect, a class where students were mostly left to their own devices, and the teacher's range of perception seemed to only extend about five feet in any direction. We talked, liked each other's artwork, and seemed to be getting along well. My braces had come off just weeks before she transferred, my acne was finally clearing up, and I even had a car! Never mind that it was a minivan. Maybe, I thought, I finally had a chance with Rachel.

The winter formal was coming up. I had to ask her. One day I mustered up the courage to confront her in the hall. I pulled the trigger.

 "Sorry, Dunn already asked me and I said yes."

Dunn. A year below me. Somehow even nerdier than I was, and with an even worse complexion . No way. This was my big shot at happiness, and I blew it. Beaten by Dunn.

Sure as most teenagers are that this is in fact the end of the world, I was inconsolable. I wouldn't even talk to my friends for the rest of the day. As soon as the final bell rang I rushed to my minivan and did my best Dale Earnhardt impression to get home. I was the first in the family to get there and rushed to my room. I was filled with a rage I'd never felt before or since. I grabbed the first thing in sight and chucked it against the wall. I kicked the stereo. I grabbed a video game and snapped the CD in my hands. I went for another and was ready to break it too when its cover caught my eye.

Final Fantasy Tactics. From the first moment I'd played it at a friend's house 3 years ago I was in love. I didn't have a playstation, and saved up for months to be able to buy one. And of course, it was my first game.

If you've never played Final Fantasy Tactics, it's a fantasy game that plays somewhat like 3-D chess, but each piece is customizable and each board unique. As much as I loved the strategy of the gameplay, it has a pretty subversive story that formed many of my core values. Despite being a game where you play by controlling soldiers, it shows war as needless, and only benefitting the elites. It shows governments engaged in short-sighted political gamesmanship at the expense of the common citizens. It shows the Church as corrupt, and the scriptures as false. And at the end of the story, nearly every character thinks the hero is a villain and the ummm... sort of villain is a hero, while still having a mostly happy ending. It was everything I'd ever imagined a video game, or any form of fiction, could be. Even now, over ten years after I played it for the first time, it's still my favorite video game. And here I was ready to destroy it. Over what? Some girl?

I suddenly remembered myself. This wasn't who I was. I knew that I would never be in this place of pure rage ever again. Even though the frustration had reached the breaking point, I was still someone who could take a step back to analyze any situation even in my darkest moments. And I was this person, at least in part, because of the video game I held in my hands.

 And life went on. It would only be a few months more until I would finally get a girlfriend, who would give me my first kiss and much more.  And just as I knew I would, I never felt that rage again. Any time I feel it coming I take a step back and remember who I am.

Final Fantasy Tactics was originally released for the Sony Playstation. It is now available on the Playstation Store and a remake, Final Fantasy Tactics: War of the Lions is available on PSP. 

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Final Fantasy Tactics may have been the reason I couldn't graduate from college the first time. We played that thing for at hours at a time trying to get all the characters right and figure our way through those chessboard type battles. That game would suck you in, then all of the sudden your armpits stink, you haven' t shaved in three days, and you're surrounded by Totinos boxes. Good times.
This is a great post! I could feel your frustration~
You could easily get an Editor's Pick for this one!
Woohoo! Congratulations!!
Ah... the drama of teenage life. Happy you survived as we all did (hopefully). :)

Thanks Susie. I didn't intend for this to receive an editor's pick. I just immediately thought of this (kind of embarrassing) story when I saw the call for saved by pop culture. Keep checking back here for some more... mature content in the future :)
Great essay, Unchained! Being old, there was no way Atari could have helped me get over my teen angst!
a geek fairy tale.
what did you think of the movie? a cool idea I thought.
I think it's more of a geek cautionary tale. I doubt OS has many high school readers, but experience is a better teacher anyway. As for the Final Fantasy movie, it was very pretty but emotionally and thematically hollow, a symptom of too many games in the franchise over the past decade.
Is there any way for users to moderate comments to their postings? I'd love to delete some of this spam.